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What To Do With "Hot" Hemp - USDA Ruling

Posted by Kerry Hinkle on

USDA Ruling On How To Dispose Of Hot Hemp

USDA ruling on how to dispose of hot hemp.


Disposing of “hot” Hemp has always been an issue for Hemp farmers in the United States. 

Hemp can be defined as “Hot” if the finished product contains more than .3% THC by dry weight, though there is some wiggle room to allow for .5% THC. 

Should the Hemp product contain more than .3% THC, it can be classified as a schedule 1 drug by the DEA, and any possession of schedule 1 drugs can come with some pretty hefty penalties, fines, or jail time.  

The inherit issue with this rule is that Hemp is a plant, and sometimes plants grow a little differently from season to season, or even harvest to harvest.  Because of these sometimes irregular harvests, combined with these very strict rules set forth, Hemp farmers have had to deal with losing a lot of money attempting to dispose of a crop that may only be a few fractions of a percent higher in a chemical substance that naturally occurs in the plant.  

But, Hemp farmers have recently rejoiced with news from the USDA regarding exactly what to do with these “Hot” plants.  

USDA Interim Rule Background

After the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, there was a mandate put forth for the USDA to "promulgate regulations and guidelines to establish and administer a program for the production of hemp in the United States."


Well, Last Halloween, the USDA released it's Interim Final Rule based on the mandate that was put forward, which was met with mixed results.  Some of the highlights from that passage include;

  • Gave indication to banks that hemp and CBD were fair game and open for business
  • Indicated that transportation of hemp across state lines is legal
  • And allows for some flexibility in testing for "hot" hemp flower


However, there were some complaints with the Interim Final Rule, which included things like requiring all flower be tested at a DEA registered facility, a .5% THC threshold for hemp, unnecessary waste of "hot" flower, and more


What Hemp Supporters Can Do About The USDA Interim Hemp Rule

Hemp plant with hemp supporters unite.

After this Interim Final Rule was published, the USDA opened up a public comment period to hear any concerns from those of us in the Hemp industry on ways to improve this final rule.  The response to this public comment period was, well, overwhelming! 

You can find some of the responses here, but they ended up needing to extend the period for public comment, and after all was said and done there were over 4700 comments submitted!

In this new industry, with vague, antiquated laws regarding hemp, when the public gets together on these issues and voices their concerns, real change can happen. 

The #1 site we recommend for contacting your lawmakers regarding hemp is the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. This organization was integral in the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, and helped keep CBD on the shelves of retailers in Indiana back in 2017.

Updated USDA Statement Regarding Interim Hemp Ruling

Thanks to all the public comments the USDA received, they have now reached an agreement with the DEA to eliminate the need for Hemp farmers to have their products tested in a DEA-registered facility!  

On top of that, they've addressed the issue with disposing of "hot" hemp.  Some of those provisions include "plowing under non-compliant plants or composting into “green manure” for use on the same land." All of the options were laid out  here, but some of the highlights also include; 

  • Burning the crop on the field
  • Using a commercial lawn mower the shred then mix the crop
  • Burying the crop at least a foot below the surface of the field
  • Cutting the crop and blending them with other biomass materials 

Not only were these victories announced, but according to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable "Other senior USDA officials have signaled other changes may come soon, including reforming some of the more onerous testing and sampling requirements, and permitting on-farm disposal and re-use of “hot” hemp instead of requiring destruction."  

The USDA is clearly taking the opinion of Hemp farmers into consideration when making these rulings, which is a fantastic thing to be able to say. 

Why The USDA Interim Final Rule Matters To You

For Hemp farmers across the country, the idea of testing all their products in a DEA-registered facility may sound good on paper, but in reality it's a nightmare.  There's currently only 47 registered USDA testing facilities.  These facilities, called "Hemp Analytical Testing Laboratories", are meant to confirm that any hemp being grown in the United States contains less than .3% THC, which prevents it from being classified as Marijuana, which is still currently a Schedule 1 drug.  (Insert eye roll emoji)


Industrial hemp planted in the United States in August of each year.
Data: USDA | *In August of each year


Let me repeat that again for good measure, only 47 registered USDA testing facilities in the entire country! 

To give some perspective, it's estimated that hemp production grew from 27,424 acres in 2018 to 128,320 in August of 2019.  That's 4.5 times the amount of hemp being grown from one year to the next.  With this huge boom, that some label the "green rush", there's just simply not enough man power at the 47 DEA-registered facilities to test all that hemp being grown. 

Oh, and for Indiana? We have only 1 DEA-registered facility, which is in Valparaiso, the 29th biggest city in the state based on population.  So the original ruling clearly just didn't make sense practically, which the USDA was clearly aware of.  

In the USDA's most recent statement they pointed out "testing bottlenecks would have occurred".  But now, thanks to the new ruling, there could be a pathway for more labs to become DEA-certified to allow for more manpower behind these testing requirements so that more farmers can be up-to-date on all federal guidelines when it comes to producing and growing Hemp. 

Arbitrary .3% THC Threshold

According to an article written in the Cannabis Business Times, a group of Canadian researchers were studying Cannabis and looking to define differences between Hemp & Marijuana for the purposes of their research.  They chose .3% THC as an arbitrary number for the time being, not knowing this would become the standard for entire countries.  

The legal limit for THC also varies from country to country.  Switzerland, for example, has set the limit for THC in Hemp at 1%.  This variance between different countries on setting this THC threshold shows the lack of science backed reasoning in determining this limit. 

So, when the 2018 Farm Bill passed legalizing Hemp nationwide, they also chose to make the THC limit at .3% THC simply because that’s what has been done before.  This decision has affected everyone in Hemp, and probably should have been taken a little more seriously.



Vote Hemp logo.



This issue is something near and dear to the hearts of Vote Hemp, a Hemp advocacy group out of Washington D.C. As of September of 2020, they are campaigning for Congress to change the legal limit of THC in hemp to 1%. 

This will allow for more room for error for Hemp farmers' end product, meaning less destroyed product, less lost revenue, and more ability for Hemp farmers to succeed in this new industry.  We encourage everyone to sign this petition, which can be found here

More USDA Hemp News To Come

We're thrilled about what this news means for hemp farmers of any size across the country, and that the USDA is listening to opinions of those in the hemp industry to better understand a regulatory framework that works on paper and on the farm.  But, there's still plenty of work to be done. 

If you're interested in contacting your local lawmaker regarding hemp, you can do so through the U.S. Hemp Roundtable State Action Portal.

Here's to hoping we can continue to deliver only good news regarding Hemp & CBD!


The content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. While research has shown that CBD has the potential to help provide beneficial outcomes for several complaints, it is advisable to seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider when you have questions regarding any medical condition and when starting, augmenting or discontinuing any existing health routine. 

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